• Susannah Ireland/eyevine, via Redux

    Bloody Secrets

    War and Men: A Love Story

    From an outpost in Afghanistan an Army officer tries to come to terms with the dual legacies of war—that something so awful could be the best time of a young man’s life.

    Early last year, when we were all transfixed with commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, before ISIS became the chief discussion concerning Iraq, I came across an article written by ex-British Army officer James Jeffrey about his shame for having enjoyed fighting there. He felt shame because despite the terrible consequences of the war; the innumerable deaths, the monetary cost, and the immeasurable loss of international clout, he still enjoyed the experience. It was the best thing he had ever done. He felt joy, because, in his words, how could you not?

    “I defy anyone in a Challenger 2 tank, looking back over the commanders cupola at 20 armored vehicles kicking up curtains of sand, speeding across the smooth desert while enveloped in warm winds as the gunner traverses the turret to test fire the coaxially mounted machine gun, and then claim not to have enjoyed themselves.

  • The Daily Beast


    The $600 Million GI Bill Racket

    For-profit colleges are treating veterans like cash cows, collecting millions in GI bill dollars for worthless diplomas while lobbying Washington to keep the money flowing.

    By Aaron Glantz at The Center for Investigative Reporting

    The GI Bill, designed to help veterans live the American dream, is being gobbled up by for-profit colleges that spend lavishly on marketing but can leave veterans with worthless degrees.

  • U.S. and Afghan soldiers walk near a U.S. Army Chinook during an operation near the town of Walli Was in Paktika province November 1, 2012. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)


    Veteran Exorcisms

    A new book about a veteran undergoing exorcisms to purge himself of demons struggles with important questions about the costs of war and the nature of PTSD.

    Tribal cultures differed in their approaches to reintegrating warriors. One common practice was to purify combatants after the fact, cleansing them of any evil spirits that might have trailed them home from battle. Sometimes, this purification centered on storytelling. A tribe would gather to hear a warrior recount his exploits, going into graphic detail, the bloodier the better. But in other societies, to tell war stories risked conjuring the dead and was considered dangerously taboo. Better to let the past be past.

    America muddles through, somewhere in the middle. Our culture is too large and varied to have a single way of “purifying” veterans, and so our method reverts, perhaps unacceptably, to the mean. We ask for neither the whole story nor for the past to be wholly ignored. Basically, we hear what we want to.

  • Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

    Breaking Point

    The Front Line in Veteran Suicides

    Every day 22 veterans commit suicide. Former Army Ranger Ted Janis struggles with the suicides of his own friends and affirms the role that veterans can play in helping each other.

    I will never forget the first day I heard the Ranger Creed, the motto of the Army Rangers that every soldier learns by heart before joining the famed unit. It was the fall of 2006, and my class of United States Army officers, the first to have joined out of high school after the attacks of 9/11, was preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. The hallowed passage laid out what was expected of us in the years to come, as we fought in Anbar deserts and the labyrinth of Baghdad, battled from Pashtun poppy fields to the valleys of the Pech River. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the third stanza would forever haunt me: Never shall I fail my comrades. While tragic and testing, losing friends in combat was expected. It wasn’t until I had left the military and friends kept dying, taking their own lives, that I felt I failed.

    On this past Veterans Day, I contemplated writing about the epidemic of veteran suicide, in honor of two friends. They had come home from fighting overseas and killed themselves. I decided against it. I did not want to darken their lives by bringing their deaths into the harsh glare of the media. I wanted to avoid causing any more pain to their grieving families, to avoid the renewed anguish that the sight of their names in print would bring.

  • The Work After Veteran’s Day

    When 1st Lt. Travis Manion was killed in Iraq his mother started a foundation in his name that is now in its sixth year and has helped over 18,000 veterans.

    Veterans Day has passed and the parades are over until next year. But for many the commitment to honoring veterans is a full time job with most of the hard work occurring after the spotlights fade.

    Since 2001, more than 7,800 nonprofit groups have registered with the federal government to provide support and services for troops, veterans and their families,—a third of those in just the last three years.  These organizations range from providing networking help to access job opportunities, assistance tapping into benefits, physical therapy and emotional counseling.

  • Team Rubicon and Mammoth Medical Missions volunteers carry a woman on a makeshift stretcher to a Filipino military helicopter to be evacuated. (Photo courtesy Kirk Jackson)


    Team Rubicon Brings Aid to Philippines

    Team Rubicon, the veteran led disaster relief group, has its first team on the ground in the Philippines assisting in aid operations. Find out how you can help.

    Last Veterans Day, former soldier Matt Pelak led hundreds of other veteran volunteers from disaster response group Team Rubicon in a day of service in the Rockaways, helping rebuild the devastated New York neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy. A world away, Kristen Rouse was finishing up a tour in Afghanistan as an Army officer. A year changed much for both soldiers, but the compulsion to serve remained steady.

    On Monday, Pelak, Rouse, and 13 other veteran volunteers from Team Rubicon touched down in Manila to rendezvous with a Philippine Air Force C-130 cargo plane en route to Tacloban City, the scene of unprecedented destruction from last week’s Typhoon Haiyan. The death toll continues to rise, but Team Rubicon’s first wave of volunteers are pressing forward to apply their military experience to bring aid to areas devastated by the historic typhoon.

  • Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., participates in a news conference with House Armed Services Committee Republicans about their formal recommendations on deficit reduction in a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.\ (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty)


    Vets in Congress Slam Pentagon

    Congressman Duncan Hunter and Adam Kinzinger, who both served overseas in the military, had harsh words for the DOD, accusing it of wasteful spending that hurts military readiness.

    The few veterans serving in Congress have a unique ability to criticize the Pentagon without having to worry about accusations that they don’t support the military. That was on full display Thursday at a summit in Washington D.C. when reps Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), both military veterans, squared off against Pentagon officials and accused the DOD of continuing to spend irresponsibly even as critical programs have been cancelled hurting military readiness.

    In a panel discussion with Defense One senior Reporter Stephanie Gaskell Hunter and Kinzinger pulled no punches. As two of a small number of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans currently serving in Congress both highlighted their responsibility to match up the Department of Defense spending with broader American strategic goals and acknowledged their unique ability to question the DOD because of their experience.

  • Cameron Baker, 26, an Air Force veteran, attending a class at Columbia University in New York in December 2009. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times, via Redux)

    Strategic Investments

    New GI Bill Hits a Million

    The post-9/11 GI Bill has given a million veterans the chance to pursue a college education. That’s more than a reward for service—it’s a strategic investment in our country’s future.

    This Veterans Day marked more than five years since President Bush signed into law the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the most significant piece of education legislation for veterans since the original GI Bill of Rights following World War II. Just days ago the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the millionth recipient of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. The new educational benefits granted to veterans represent more than a moral obligation, they are a strategic financial investment in our economic future that will benefit the entire country.

    As directors of Student Veterans of America (SVA) and leaders in the veteran education space, we have seen the transformational nature of veteran education in general and the Post-9/11 GI Bill in particular. On many campuses, veterans have gone from a marginalized minority to a cohesive peer group. SVA, founded in early 2008, has grown from a handful of disparate groups to over 920 on-campus, peer-supported chapters in all 50 states and 2 countries abroad.

  • The Daily Beast/Elena Scotti, traffic_analyzer

    Creating Art After War

    Art isn’t only a form of therapy for veterans; some just want to express themselves. Expanding opportunities for veterans in creative fields would benefit them and the art world.

    There are many stigmas associated with veterans returning from combat. We are all presumed to suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress, and many believe we simply don’t have the capacity to properly assimilate back into society. This assumption can be especially difficult for those of us who enlisted in the military to be part of something larger than ourselves—and who consider art-making and creative expression a continuation of, rather than a release from, service.

    Because most people see the military and the arts as two very different worlds, they assume I am pursuing the arts because it serves as a kind of therapy, preparing me for reintegration or allowing me to express years of traumatic experiences. While those realities surely exist for many veterans, that very assumption creates a bias that is incredibly difficult to overcome. The truth is that many military service members are creative individuals who continue to innovate, serve in their communities and use the arts to communicate a unique veteran perspective.

  • Ricky Carioti/Getty

    Free Speech Issue?

    Memorial Visit a ‘First Amendment Demonstration’

    Veterans who visited the WWII memorial on Day 2 of the shutdown were technically part of a demonstration and met by hordes of congressmen, explains Ben Jacobs.

    Scores of veterans of the Second World War and Korean War, along with volunteers escorting them, streamed into Washington DC’s World War II Memorial on the National Mall on an unseasonably warm October Wednesday surrounded by well wishers, protestors and hordes of Congressmen. The veterans came for the second day since the shutdown as part of the Honor Flight program, which allows those who served to visit the memorials in Washington DC for free.

    According to the National Park Service, the groups of veterans who visited the memorial as part of the Honor Flight program were participating in a demonstration and were free to visit the memorial in a way that regular visitors were not able to during the government shutdown.

  • An image taken from a video uploaded to YouTube by the Local Committee of Arbeen on August 21, 2013 allegedly shows a mass grave containing bodies of victims that Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta and Zamalka, on the outskirts of Damascus. (DSK/AFP/Getty)

    Call to Action

    A Vet’s Case for Striking Syria

    Our Security depends on it. Army veteran Mark Jacobson makes the case for a U.S. strike in Syria.

    This article is part of an ongoing Hero Project series offering veteran’s perspectives on the conflict in Syria and the prospect of a U.S. military intervention. Click here to read the last installment, where Brian Van Reet, an Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star with Valor in Iraq, argues against attacking Syria.

    I have spent most of my career in the policymaking arena, where struggles and skirmishes were bureaucratic, but I also served in uniform for 20 years as a soldier and an officer. I mobilized to Bosnia, helping to end a civil war that claimed 350,000 lives and threatened the stability of Southeast Europe. In 2006 I deployed to Afghanistan, joining the tens of thousands of other service members who have worked to keep the Afghan people safe from extremists and free from oppression so they could have the opportunity to shape their nation’s future. I believe that the Syrian government’s crimes are contemptible and pose a national security threat to the United States. Though there is now some chance of a diplomatic resolution based on the Russian response to Senator Kerry’s statement that the U.S. would back down if Syria turned over its full stock of chemical weapons, this outcome remains unlikely. If a peaceful solution to Syria’s aggression does fail, an American military response will be necessary and I would serve again there if called upon.

  • U.S. Marines evacuate a colleague wounded in a mortar attack on a base south of Baghdad November 29, 2004. (Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters, © Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters)

    Not Again

    A Veteran’s Case Against Attacking

    No to Syria. Army veteran Brian Van Reet argues against intervention.

    On an absentee ballot mailed from Camp War Eagle, I voted John Kerry for president in 2004. I had been in Baghdad about eight months. Over that time I had come to believe that the army’s strategy—if you could call harassing Iraqi men, passing out soccer balls to their kids, building bigger and better chow halls on our FOBs, and driving the highway looking for bombs, a strategy—was headed for dismal failure.

    President Bush pleaded with the country to stay the course. Meanwhile, I cast a ballot for the other guy.

  • via thisainthell.us


    Don't Use the Uniform for Politics

    Exploiting the uniform to advocate your own politics is shameful, writes Army vet Garrett Berntsen.

    On September 1, Business Insider published an article about recent posts on Reddit’s military site that showed service members in uniform holding signs over their faces protesting the president’s policy toward Syria. Since then a host of other media outlets have picked up on the story and Reddit/Military has been flooded with posts on both sides of the argument. In an all-volunteer force that defends a nation with a free and healthy discourse surrounding our foreign policy, these photos come closer to treason than whistleblowing.

    Dissent in the ranks is not novel; it’s a tradition as old as military service. What’s new is soldiers’ ability to leverage social media to broadcast their views and the amplifying effect that occurs when the social media buzz is then picked up by major media outlets. It’s a process that has the potential to report on important stories drawn from within the ranks but it can also, as in the recent Reddit case, transform commonplace barracks gripes into national news. What some press outlets have depicted as widespread dissent within the military is really just a symptom of the newfound ability to anonymously question national security decisions without facing consequences.